MINUTES FOR THE REGULAR MEETING
ASHLAND CITY COUNCIL
May 20, 2014
1175 E. Main Street
CALL TO ORDER
Mayor Stromberg called the meeting to order at 7:00 p.m. in the Civic Center Council Chambers.
Councilor Voisin, Morris, Slattery, Lemhouse, Rosenthal, and Marsh were present.
Mayor Stromberg announced vacancies on the Airport, Conservation, Firewise, Forest Lands, Historic, Public Arts, and Tree Commissions. There was also one vacancy on the Citizen Budget Committee.
Mayor Stromberg removed the Planning Commission’s report regarding short-term rentals from the agenda for a future meeting and moved Public Forum after the Consent Agenda with Council consent.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The minutes of the Special Meeting of April 22, 2014, Study Session of May 5, 2014, Executive Session of May 6, 2014, and Business Meeting of May 6, 2014 were approved as presented.
SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS & AWARDS
Firewise Commission member Eric Olson provided the annual presentation on the Commission and shared accomplishments.
1. Approval of commission, committee, and board minutes
2. Award of a professional services contract in excess of $75,000 for consultant engineering of the A Street Sewer Project
3. TGM Grant application approval for Siskiyou Blvd. Pedestrian Study
4. Award of contract to apparent low bidder for the 2014 Slurry Seal Project
5. Approval of an intergovernmental agreement between Jackson County and the City of Ashland for Sobering Unit Services
6. Award of professional services contract for the Water Rate Cost of Services Study
7. Third Quarter Financial Report for year one of the 2013-2015 Biennium
8. Declare the barn located at Ashland Creek Park, 27 E. Hersey Street, as surplus property
Council pulled Consent agenda items #3, #5, and #6 for further discussion.
Engineering Services Manager Scott Fleury addressed the Traffic Growth Management (TGM) grant application and explained they could extend the pedestrian study parameters to Walker Street and Fire Station #1. It would require amending the cost for the study possibly $5,000-$10,000. The grant had a 12% match the City could meet through staff time. The Downtown Multi Modal Committee was looking into pedestrian traffic issues in the downtown area. Staff also involved consultant Traffic Engineer Kim Parducci to look at pedestrian safety in the downtown corridor. Ms. Parducci conducted an analysis on the pedestrian fatality that occurred on Water Street and North Main that resulted in eliminating parking along the north side of Water Street to increase sight distance.
Councilor Marsh/Lemhouse m/s to approve Consent Agenda item #3 the TGM grant application for the Siskiyou Boulevard Pedestrian Study with the area to be studied defined as that portion of the road between Fire Station #1 and Walker Street. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
Councilor Marsh clarified Consent Agenda item #5 noting Jackson County contracted to the non-profit Addictions Recovery Center who provided sobering services.
Public Works Director Mike Faught addressed Consent Agenda Item #6 Water Rate Cost of Services (COS) Study and explained the four additional meetings would analyze different conservation levels and tiers.
Councilor Rosenthal/Voisin m/s to approve the Consent Agenda with the exception of the previously approved Consent Agenda Item #3. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
Jonny Boulton/165 East Main Street/Provided an update on a group that consisted of Mayor Stromberg, Councilor Marsh and citizens for and against the gun ordinance. He asked Council to add the gun ordinance to a future agenda for a final decision.
Jackson Bangs/632 Chestnut/Jackson County Fuel Committee/Explained the Committee’s mission to provide heat to low income households. He opposed the utility rate increases and described the affect it had on low income household.
Robin Haptonstall/341 Beach Street/Stated that his liberty was very important to him and wanted the gun ordinance to come before Council as soon as possible.
1. Public Hearing and approval of five resolutions proposing utility rate increases and repealing prior resolutions
City Administrator Dave Kanner explained there were five resolutions to increase utility rates for the transportation utility fee, the storm drain utility fee, water rates, wastewater rates, and electric rates. The rate increases totaled a 6.5% increase to the average residential customer. The Electric rate was 3.6% and would build up the Electric Department’s working capital that had decreased over the past three years. The City would use the funds for system wide improvements and capital projects. The water and wastewater increase would fund capital projects identified as necessary in the Water and Wastewater Master Plans. The community was dealing with antiquated infrastructure that needed updating. He acknowledged the increase was painful and noted programs that provided assistance.
Electric Director Mark Holden addressed the electric service increase and explained the 3.6% would apply across all rate classes. The rate increase involved four components, personal services, materials, Bonneville Power Association (BPA) costs specifically the new Oversupply Management Protocol (OMP) charge, and increased transmission costs. The contribution to the Ending Fund Balance (EFB) would stabilize the decline experienced over the past years.
Mr. Holden clarified the Electric User Tax (EUT) was not in the Electric Department, collected separately by the City for the General Fund and subsequently not included in the 3.6% rate increase. The rate increase would build the EFB up to $1,800,000 over the next 2-3 years.
Mr. Kanner explained the electric utility did not include the EUT or the franchise fee in the rate calculations. The EUT was 25% of the electric bill whether Council raised electric rates or not. That 25% did not change and the franchise fee was a percentage of gross revenue. If gross revenue decreased, the franchise fee revenue to the General Fund went down as well and Council would have to cut a project to offset the loss of revenue. Mr. Kanner would review and bring options to modify the franchise fees and EUT to Council at a future Study Session.
Utility Billing Supervisor Bryn Morrison addressed requirements for electric utility assistance and explained the program was income based at 60% of the state median income.
Public Works Director Mike Faught and Financial Analyst Ray Bartlett from Economic & Financial Analysis explained the rate increases for water, sewer, the transportation fee, and the storm water fee. Increases included 10.8% for water, 10% for wastewater, and 2.57% each for transportation and storm drain. The rate increase for water matched the Water Master Plan. The TAP project came in higher than the $2,000,000 allocated in the Water Master Plan due to construction and an unexpected $3,000,000 System Development Charge (SDC) to the Medford Water Commission to use the water. Mr. Bartlett revised the master plan to accommodate the cost overrun in the TAP project by moving $2,700,000 in projects further out. Another change was $26,000,000 of capital improvement projects over the next 10 years originally financed at 5% over a 20-year period. Staff was working with the State to change that to 1% over a 30-year period along with a grant. These revisions enabled the rate increase to remain at what the Water Master Plan initially recommended.
The Wastewater Master Plan was on track. The Transportation and Storm Drain rate increases matched the increase in capital costs. The Transportation Master Plan was complete and the financing was still pending. The Storm Drain Master Plan was underway. The City was spending 99% of the revenues in the transportation system on operations leaving very little for capital improvements. The increase in the fee would add another $33,500 for capital improvements for the future. The Storm Drain fund ran at a deficit.
Mr. Faught clarified the Transportation Utility Fee Study was in the current budget but due to the TAP project would not move forward until the fall. He confirmed annual 10% rate increases for wastewater through 2017 with annual 10% increases for water through 2016 where it would drop to 7.9% in 2017 then 3.7% in 2018.
Public Hearing Open: 8:24 p.m.
Sue Crader/2957 Barbara Street/Explained she was the Executive Director of Ashland Supportive Housing and Community Outreach, and spoke on behalf of the non-typical utility user. She shared utility rates incurred since 2008 that totaled an increase of $3,475 or 24% and noted salaries had not increased. Her agency and other businesses were getting squeezed tighter and tighter. She urged Council to examine what they could do to alleviate the impact of the increases for non typical users, low-income or fixed income.
Pamala Joy/472 Walker Avenue/Ran the Ashland Food Angels and noted that the people she worked with struggled to make ends meet. Recently Food Angels became part of Partners for a Hunger Free Oregon. She read statistics that stated the cost of living in Oregon was higher than the national average, 500,000 Oregonians had struggled to get enough food to eat. Hunger was a symptom of lack of sufficient income to pay basic expenses and an indicator of systemic issues in the economy. She went on to read a poem she wrote.
Ron Roth/6950 Old 99 South/Understood the need to raise the water rates. The TAP project cost a lot of money. One of his concerns was the idea of going to curtailment rates before it was necessary. Curtailment rates should not go into effect until mid September. As far as the overall rate increase, he speculated that more than 1% of Ashland residents were part of the “1%.” There was also a large population of low-income people and that is where the City should be concerned. He liked the assistance programs and thought the City should expand them. He also thought Ashland had more water than people thought.
Emma Barry/659 Fordyce Street/Spoke on behalf of Jackson County Fuel Committee (JCFC) who encouraged Council to reject any utility rate increase until the City had exhausted all alternatives. Of the 178 families the JCFC helped 40 faced shut offs from the City. Statistic showed low-income families reduced their food budget $9 a month when there was a 10 degree drop in temperature while wealthier families increased their food budget $11 per month. The increase would harm the poor. The JCFC understood the reasons for the increase in rates, shared ways the City assisted JCFC, and listed questions they wanted answered for the community. She went on to ask Council to enact a moratorium for shut offs for low income residents from November 1 through March 31 and establish a year round 30% discount for low-income households as well.
Public Hearing Closed: 8:39 p.m.
Councilor Rosenthal/Marsh m/s to approve Resolution #2014-02 for Water Service. DISCUSSION: Councilor Rosenthal thought it was responsible to increase the fee based on the amount of research and calculations done on water infrastructure needs going forward. The state revolving loan fund would require this adjustment in order to be eligible for loan forgiveness. Councilor Marsh added this was the most responsible path to develop a sustainable water system. The 1% loan from the state would help pay for a portion and required a contribution from the community. Councilor Lemhouse noted the aging infrastructure and now everyone was facing rising costs because action not previously taken and he was not willing to do that to the future residents of the town. Not taking these steps would create more difficulty for the future. Councilor Voisin commented water use paid for infrastructure and the General Fund and alternately Council had a goal to make Ashland affordable. She knew that conservation was the best and most reliable way of securing water supply and wanted the City to do more.
Roll Call Vote: Councilor Marsh, Rosenthal, Morris, Slattery, and Lemhouse, YES; Councilor Voisin, NO. Motion passed 5-1.
Councilor Voisin/Slattery m/s to reopen the Public Hearing on utility rates. Voice Vote: all AYES. Motion passed.
Public Hearing Opened: 8:47 p.m.
Kristin Dilling-Conand/65 Woolen Way #2/Explained that at this point with utility rates it was a choice of food and utilities for herself and her tenants. She was disabled and during the winter could not buy food because of her electric bill. The rates just went up in December and the City explained they had used more power and she claimed they did not. She had three tenants already struggling to pay rent and their electric rates were going to ACCESS. It was a lot of money for people who did not have good jobs and struggled to remain in Ashland. Fees were running her out of Ashland. The December rate increase was supposedly to be 6% and with taxes, it was closer to 7%. She assumed the new increase was similar and noted that was 15% in five and a half months. Council raised the rates already to pay for TAP. She did not think it was fair.
Public Hearing Closed: 8:50 p.m.
Councilor Rosenthal/Marsh m/s to approve Resolution #2014-03 for Wastewater (Sewer) Service. DISCUSSION: Councilor Rosenthal commented it was difficult approving fees. In 2012, the Waste Water Master Plan outlined $10,800,000 of high priority capital projects to ensure compliance with all regulatory requirements and to meet future needs. It was irresponsible to delay or decline adjusting this particular fee increase. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Rosenthal, Marsh, Slattery, Morris, and Lemhouse, YES; Councilor Voisin, NO. Motion passed 5-1.
Councilor Marsh/Slattery m/s to approve Resolution #2014-04 for a Transportation Utility Fee. DISCUSSION: Councilor Marsh explained the streets were degrading at a rate that would cost the community more in the future. It was important to move forward with the Transportation Utility Fee study so the City would manage street maintenance issues on a macro level than adding cost of living increases to the transportation fee. Councilor Slattery agreed. Councilor Voisin did not see any alternative for street maintenance and would support the increase. Councilor Rosenthal added the metric communities used to determine quality of street conditions had declined 20 percentage points over the past few years, used East Main Street as an example, and noted other streets would look similar if the City did not take action.
Roll Call Vote: Councilor Lemhouse, Morris, Voisin, Marsh, Rosenthal, and Slattery, YES. Motion passed.
Councilor Morris/Lemhouse m/s to approve Resolution #2014-05 for a Storm Drain Utility Fee. DISCUSSION: Councilor Morris explained the City was falling behind on maintenance. Councilor Lemhouse agreed on the infrastructure and explained it was not easy to raise rates, the public elected Council to make these decisions, and Council needed to make them. Councilor Voisin would support the motion since there were no other alternatives. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Voisin, Marsh, Rosenthal, Morris, Slattery, and Lemhouse, YES. Motion passed.
Councilor Voisin/Slattery m/s the electric utility increase and place a moratorium on the Electric User Tax and the Franchise Fees for those increases directing staff to develop progressive rates with conservation incentives and a progressive tax structure for the Electric User Tax repealing Resolution 2013-34. DISCUSSION: Councilor Voisin thought it was time to think creatively, admit part of the conundrum was paying bills, and find other ways. The City did not need a “Cadillac” solution for all cases. She wanted to know and have the public understand how rate increases affected the General Fund and how the City would use the increase. Councilor Slattery explained he had not been comfortable increasing the Electric User Tax (EUT) for a while and thought Council needed to look at in a more comprehensive fashion and would support the motion.
Councilor Voisin clarified the motion retained the EUT and stopped increases until further study. Accounting Manager Cindy Hanks confirmed the EUT was an ordinance and the City could handle the franchise fees internally. Mr. Kanner added revising the rate structure to reward electric conservation was a larger endeavor and probably required hiring a consultant. Mayor Stromberg commented the motion was not explicit enough or checked for feasibility. Councilor Lemhouse called for a point order and explained Councilor Voisin had the opportunity to speak to the motion. He did not think there was another opportunity to ask questions of staff or seek further clarification. That needed to happen in the motion itself. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Voisin, YES; Councilor Marsh, Rosenthal, Morris, Slattery, and Lemhouse, NO. Motion failed 5-1.
Councilor Marsh/Morris m/s to approve Resolution #2014-06 for Electric Service.
DISCUSSION: Councilor Marsh explained Council would address the EUT in a Study Session already scheduled and that was the time to make adjustments if needed. Ashland owned its own electric utility and bills were less than other cities and there were subsidy programs that accepted anyone who qualified. Councilor Morris added this was the only option at this time and wanted the rate structure, franchise fees, and EUT studied further.
Councilor Voisin noted all the utility increases had a 49% percent tax or fee that needed to be curtailed or decreased. She wanted progressive taxes and rates so those who used more paid more and conservation efforts were rewarded through rates. Councilor Slattery would not support the motion and wanted the process of raising rates reviewed and revised.
Councilor Lemhouse would support the increase, agreed the rate process needed work and that work would happen. It was frustrating to hear arguments about taking care of people by voting against this when Council did not lower rates or taxes in other ways and added fees on things that people did in their daily lives. He would support the motion because it needed to happen. Councilor Slattery asked Council to consider that one way of making a new plan was voting against the rate increase. Councilor Voisin agreed with Councilor Slattery. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Marsh, Morris, and Lemhouse, YES; Councilor Voisin, Slattery, and Rosenthal, NO. Mayor Stromberg broke the tie with a YES vote. Motion passed 4-3.
Mayor Stromberg was confident Council could resolve the issue of the Electric User Tax and did not want to shut down financial processes as a way of achieving it.
2. Public Hearing and approval of a resolution titled, “A resolution adopting a Miscellaneous Fees and Charges document and repealing prior fee resolution 2013-17”
3. Continuation of the Public Hearing and first reading of two separate ordinances amending the City of Ashland Comprehensive Plan, Comprehensive Plan Maps, Transportation System Plan, and Street Standards to adopt the Normal Neighborhood Plan
ABSTENTIONS, CONFLICTS, EXPARTE CONTACT
THOSE WISHING TO PROVIDE TESTIMONY
Public Hearing-continued: 9:18 p.m.
Sue DeMarinis/145 Normal Avenue/Read from a document submitted into the record.
Sherry Smilo/2305 C Ashland Street #281/Did not support consultants from out of the area and thought they should at least live in Jackson County to see how their plans affected the public. She shared her experience blocking an action to build a road in her back yard. New roads would bring issues and impact.
Wesley Bishop/280 Normal Avenue/Understood that when he moved to Normal 26 years ago his property was part of the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) and new change would occur. He supported neighborhood growth but wanted wise and prudent planning.
Gil Livni/240 Normal Avenue/Read from a document submitted into the record.
Anya Neher/237 Clay Street/Noted the area around Clay Street already supported a lot of high-density housing that caused increased traffic. She thought it was a lot asking one section of town to keep taking more high-density housing. She asked Council look into the density and height allowance in the plan.
Councilor Slattery/Voisin m/s to continue the Public Hearing to the next Council Meeting. DISCUSSION: Councilor Lemhouse would not be present at the next meeting and did not think they should postpone due to his schedule. Councilor Rosenthal suggested scheduling a special meeting instead. Councilor Voisin wanted to be sure there was enough time for staff to complete their report and hear from the Planning Commission. Councilor Lemhouse would vote against the motion and supported having a special meeting. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Voisin, YES; Councilor Rosenthal, Slattery, Marsh, Lemhouse, and Morris, NO. Motion failed 5-1.
Councilor Lemhouse/Slattery m/s to schedule Special Meeting on the Normal Avenue project for the evening of May 29, 2014. DISCUSSION: Councilor Marsh would not support the motion and thought it should continue to the regular Council meeting June 3, 2014. Council discussed starting the meeting at 7:30 p.m. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Rosenthal, Slattery, Voisin, Lemhouse, and Morris, YES; Councilor Marsh, NO. Motion passed 5-1.
Mayor Stromberg clarified they would take public testimony from those who filled out speaker request forms for the May 6 or May 20 meeting and did not speak, and those who wished to speak and had not but would not hear testimony from people who had already spoken on the manner.
UNFINISHED BUSINESS - None
NEW AND MISCELLANEOUS BUSINESS
1. Planning Commission’s report on considering a limited type of short-term traveler accommodation in residential zones
Removed from agenda.
ORDINANCES, RESOLUTIONS AND CONTRACTS
1. First reading by title only of an ordinance titled, “An ordinance amending AMC Chapter 2.26, Firewise Commission to Ashland Wildfire Mitigation Commission”
Division Chief-Forest Resource Chris Chambers explained the proposed ordinance changed the charter of the commission only. It would give them a broader purview of issues to consider under the Fire Adapted Communities program but would not create an impetus in any way for landowners to have to remove vegetation. The Commission might consider that in the future and that would require sending it to the Planning Commission then to Council.
Councilor m/s to approve First Reading of the ordinance and place it on the agenda for Second Reading. Roll Call Vote: Councilor Slattery, Rosenthal, Voisin, Morris, Lemhouse, and Marsh, YES. Motion passed.
OTHER BUSINESS FROM COUNCIL MEMBERS/REPORTS FROM COUNCIL LIAISONS
Councilor Rosenthal explained that each summer the Conservation Commission collaborated with Recology to offer free composting classes in Ashland. Basic Composting class dates were June 7, 2014, and July 5, 2014. Advance Composting class dates were August 2, 2014 and the Vermicomposting class was September 6, 2014. All classes would happen at the Ashland Recycle Center on Water Street, 2:30-4:30 p.m.
Councilor Lemhouse provided a liaison report on the Downtown Beautification Committee that met May 8, 2014 and made recommendations for projects that staff would provide price summaries and the Committee will refine their list further.
Councilor Voisin announced the portable shower trailer service was at the food bank and the United Methodist Church. She expressed gratitude to Jon Warren, the owner of the Holiday Inn Express who volunteered to launder used towels.
Councilor Marsh invited everyone to attend the ongoing community discussion on guns. The next meeting was May 29, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. at the Library in the large meeting room.
City Administrator Dave Kanner noted the City was not putting out the hanging baskets in the Plaza this summer, the Downtown Beautification Committee asked to hang colorful pennants from the pedestrian lamps. He would also send Council alternative locations for the Plaza information kiosk. Staff was also launching a water wise campaign that would start in June.
Councilor Morris announced the Historic Preservation awards would occur the next night at 1:00 p.m. in the Community Center at Winburn Way.
Meeting was adjourned at 10:04 p.m.
Barbara Christensen, City Recorder John Stromberg, Mayor